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Jim Wilson, Interview with Jim Wilson, R.Ph., MBA
President of WilsonRx, LLC

Q&A with Jim Wilson, Founder, Owner, and President of WilsonRx, LLC, in New Hope, Pennsylvania

Jim Wilson, R.Ph., MBA, is the founder, owner, and president of WilsonRx, LLC, located in New Hope, Pennsylvania, as well as the owner of the WilsonRx® brand of Healthcare Satisfaction Survey Reports, including the exclusive Pharmacy Satisfaction Survey Report and Digest. Currently at WilsonRx®, he is focused on healthcare consumer research with specialization in pharmacy, pharmacy benefit, health insurance, and medical treatment satisfaction. Jim came from a family of pharmacists and 2010 marks his family's 100 years in pharmacy.

Q: You come from a “family of pharmacists.” Can you tell me a little bit about your family?

The first pharmacist in my family was my grandfather, John H. Wilson, who was a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1910. He opened and operated Wilson's Drug Store in Centralia, Pennsylvania, until the 1920s when he became stricken with a crippling disorder we now believe to be Lou Gehrig's disease or multiple sclerosis.

Faced with an ailing husband and supporting the family, my grandmother, Madeline Graeber Wilson, earned her Pharmacy degree from home study and Temple University and in 1934 received her Assistant Pharmacist certificate from the PA State Board of Pharmacy. She ran Wilson's Drug Store until her retirement in the 1950s.

My father, William J. Wilson, R.Ph., was a Temple Pharmacy graduate in 1952. He owned and operated Wilson's Pharmacy from 1958 until 1986. Both of my uncles, James Wilson and Hugh Wilson, were graduates of PCP and both were 25+ year detail veterans of Abbott Laboratories.

I also have several cousins, including Hugh Wilson, who was a professor at PCP and is now at Noven Pharmaceuticals, and Andrew McLaughlin, who works as a retail pharmacist; my two brothers, William J. Wilson, Jr., who works as a hospital pharmacist, and Robert A. Wilson, who works as a retail pharmacist and in long-term care, all graduates of PCP. My sister, Barbara A. Wilson, and I are both Temple graduates.

The Wilson family is in the process of gaining its fourth generation of pharmacists, including my nephew, Brian Wilson, who is in his fourth year of pharmacy school at the University of the Sciences School of Pharmacy (formerly PCP) with two years to go. Recently, my second cousin, Justin Montgomery, graduated from Pitt Pharmacy and there may even be fifth generation interest.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a pharmacist?

When I graduated from high school, frankly, I was not sure what I wanted to do and decided to take a year off. I worked three jobs, seven days a week, earning minimum wage of $2.00 per hour doing landscaping, working in a nursing home, and in a self-service gas station. I met an interesting individual one evening at the gas station, who told me the interesting story of the Acres of Diamonds, written by Russell Conwell, founder of Temple University. After I read that book, I realized that what I was seeking was right in my backyard in the field of pharmacy.

Q: Tell me about your journey to the road of pharmacy.

I started out at the local Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC). My father had his own independent pharmacy business and by the time he paid for my brothers and sister, he was pretty well tapped out, so if I wanted to pursue a higher education, I would have to pay for it myself.

So, I worked part-time and attended college full-time taking as many credits as I could each semester. I received my associate's degree from (HACC) and went on to Temple University. I graduated from Temple's School of Pharmacy with a BS in 1982.

After graduation and a summer of working with my dad in the store, I decided to return to school, this time for my master's in Business Administration (MBA). I was accepted into Temple's Fox School of Business in the Health Administration MBA program. I really enjoyed the program because it built upon my pharmacy background and it was the only one that had some additional grant monies available, which were sorely needed after I ran up $15,000 in student loans for pharmacy school. The MBA added another $10,000 to my student loan balance, looking back, the $25,000 investment was well worth it.

Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities at your company?

Working in the industry or working in a consumer healthcare company means that you do not work "nine-to-five," you typically have a home-based office and a laptop computer for working on the road while traveling. Having the pharmacist background has helped quite a bit, especially when designing surveys to reflect current treatments and patient perceptions. While I have kept my license current, I find very little need to have a pharmacy license. However, I have helped friends who own pharmacies by working part-time. It was then that I realized just how much things have changed since I graduated pharmacy school.

Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as the owner of a consumer healthcare company?

I have had many challenges over the years that have helped me to change directions and take a new and fresh look at my career. In 1999, the company I was working at went into bankruptcy, at the same time, I learned that I had advanced liver disease and in 2006, I received a liver transplant. Since then, I've learned that every day is a gift.

My biggest challenge today is to remember what is most important, my Faith in God, my wife, Francine, my family, my grandsons, Aaron Cash, and Cole Foster, and my friends and other relatives.

Another challenge facing all pharmacists is keeping up-to-date! I recently worked part-time in a pharmacy and realized that half of the drugs on the shelf didn't even exist when I received my pharmacy degree/license and the other half were brand names drugs now being dispensed generically. Just staying on top of the advances and new product introductions is a full-time job.

Q: How has the role of the pharmacist changed since your grandfather started in 1910?

As a third generation pharmacist, I have personally seen the role change significantly. Over the past 100 years, we have gone from a profession of primarily being a chemist and compounder to one of many diverse practice settings. In 1910, my grandfather began as a Doctor of Chemistry; he custom prepared more than 90% of the prescriptions that he sold.

During the '30s, my grandmother, Madeline, began to package batches of medicines for easy dispensing later. I actually used one of my grandmother's prescription labels for the font used in the WilsonRx registered logo. During the '50s, '60s, and '70s, my father, on the other hand, dispensed slightly more than half and compounded the rest. During the '70s and '80s, chains began to grow rapidly, the independent pharmacies found it difficult to survive, and many have gone out of business, including my dad's store. Today, the dispensing role has been mostly replaced by robots and machines and is less dependent on the pharmacist. However, all throughout our 100-year history, I've come to realize that communication is key, whether it is patient counseling, training, or providing empathy to suffering people.

Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to pharmacists today?

Over the years, I have been affiliated with virtually all of the major pharmacy associations, including APhA, AMCP, ASCP, ASHP, NACDS, NCPA, and PCMA, as well as various state and local pharmacist associations. There does not appear to be any centralized voice for the profession of pharmacy.

All of the associations have their own vested interested members, some of which are competitive. The recent healthcare reform process created one example where various pharmacy stakeholders seemed to work together for the common good of pharmacy. However, pharmacy risks losing control to non-pharmacists without a common ground or voice.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

I have had to work very hard for everything I have ever earned. I paid for my education by working and paying off my student loans. I earned my first million by the time I was 40 and have earned enough during my career to retire comfortably by the time I was 50. Now, I get to spend time with my wife, my family, my grandsons, and my friends, and practice my Faith.

Q: What advice do you have for other healthcare professionals out there?

I truly believe that if you are happy you will find a way to earn a living and thrive by doing what you truly love to do. Find out what you love to do and pursue that dream. I have seen too many people, particularly pharmacists, who are unhappy with their career, and they stay in a job they are unhappy with just to pay the bills. If you are not happy where you are, get out! Find what you truly love to do it, and you will do just fine—believe me.

NEWS-Line for Pharmacists • July 2010

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